February 9th, 2011 10:05 EST
Kashmiri Leadership Must Be Included in Talks Between India and Pakistan
I would like to thank the people of Pakistan for their complete and unconditional solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmir and their eagerness to help the people of Kashmir to exercise their right to self-determination which was guaranteed at the United Nations Security Council as early as 1948, said Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Chairman, All Parties Hurriyet Conference (APHC) while addressing a seminar, India-Pakistan Relations: Breaking the Deadlock Over Kashmir. " The seminar was held at the George Mason University and was attended by over 300 students, faculty, scholars and community leaders. Other speakers included: Ms. Victoria Schofield, Hon. Dagfinn Hoybraten, Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Ms. Iffat Gardezi, Mr. Ali Shahnawaz Khan, Mujtaba Mumtaz Wani, Ms. Insha Zulfikhar Khan, Ehtisham Kayani, Professor Yu from GMU and Israr Mirza, the President of PSA.
Mirwaiz said that the APHC is willing to enter into dialogue with the Government of India provided she responds to the four point proposal which was put forth in 2010 and they include the demanded of (i) withdrawal of security forces from residential areas, villages and towns, (ii) end to human rights abuses, (iii) release of all political prisoners and (iv) revocation of harsh laws like the AFSPA and Disturbed Area Act.
Mirwaiz welcomed the initiative of New Delhi and Islamabad to meet this week in Bhutan. However, he emphasized that the present situation inside Kashmir makes it clear that, if talks between India and Pakistan are to mean anything, then the leadership of the people of Jammu and Kashmir must be associated and, and the talks must be accompanied by practical measures to restore an environment of non-violence.
Contrary to the sensible course we suggest, the Indian authorities have in the past persisted relentlessly, even after the announcement of the intention to hold talks, in committing atrocities and holding Kashmir under siege. Today, it is a fact that India is involved in state terrorism in Kashmir. Furthermore, the 700,000 Indian military and paramilitary forces operate outside the rule of law under the protective umbrella of an Indian immunity statute, Mirwaiz added.
Mirwaiz asked, who could defend torture, disappearances, or summary executions in this day and age? The genuine test of how much we care about such abuses is what we do about them, not just what we say about them. And the United States as a sole superpower has a moral obligation to respond to the cries of people who are involved in an indigenous, popular and non-violent movement in Kashmir.
Mirwaiz concluded that our endeavor to resolve the Kashmir issue is not just a quest for peace for the people of Kashmir, we cannot overlook the fact that South Asia is a region that is becoming more and more a major role player and competitor in all international markets. Thus, it may be appropriate to point out that the resolution of Kashmir will pave the way for the peace, security and stability to the region of South Asia which includes, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Noted writer and author, Ms. Victoria Schofield asked, why have both India and Pakistan fought over Kashmir? As we know the reasons are historical but the real question to be asked today in 2011 is are the reasons the same today as they were yesterday or in 1947. I would suggest that they are not. When India and Pakistan fought in 1947-48 and in 1965, their perception of what might happen in Kashmir was different from what it is today. At that time it was expected that the whole state would either become part of India or part of Pakistan. But I do not believe today that anyone seriously sees that happening.
Ms. Schofield also asked what needs to be done to resolve this long-standing issue? That is the most important question which has to be on the agenda between India and Pakistan peace talks. But where will Kashmir be on the agenda " on the top or on the bottom or on the front burner or on the back. I personally believe that it should be at the top of the agenda. Having established that " we can move to discuss: human rights abuses, rule of law, repeal of draconian laws, Sir Creek, etc.
Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Executive Director, Kashmiri American Council/Kashmir Center insisted that the genuine leadership of the Kashmiri people be included in all negotiations over Kashmir`s future with India and Pakistan. No Kashmir solution that fails to command the consensus of the people of Kashmir has a chance of success. Furthermore, simple justice and morality require permitting Kashmiris to participate in charting their own political destiny.
Fai said that Indian delegates Mr. Gopalaswamy Aynager said on January 15, 1948 at the United Nations that the question about the future of Kashmir whether to withdraw from the accession from India or to acceded to Pakistan or remain independent, it must be decided by the people of Kashmir. India, however, was soon undeceived of its delusions over Kashmir`s political yearning. Recognizing that its people would never freely vote accession to India, it contrived excuse after excuse to frustrate a plebiscite. India`s proclamation has never been accepted by the United Nations, which continues to list Kashmir as disputed territory and subject to the Security Council`s self-determination resolutions.
Fai said that the Kashmir is not the issue of fundamentalism. The proud distinction of the Kashmiri culture is the sustained tradition of tolerance, amity and brotherhood/sisterhood between the members of different religious communities. He reiterated that Kashmir question is not a fight between Hindus and Muslims, nor it is a struggle between theocracies of secularism. Kashmir issue is about the future and aspirations of 16 million people of the States of Jammu and Kashmir, irrespective of their religious affiliations and cultural background.
Ms. Iffat Gardezi, the DCM said I am here to reiterate the Pakistan`s unconditional moral, political and diplomatic support to the Kashmiris for a just and peaceful solution to the Kashmir dispute. We stand should to shoulder with our Kashmiri brethren. She said that defying all odds, the brave desire and aspirations of the Kashmiris for liberty and justice remain strong forever. Their tale f suffering has been written in the blood of their sons and daughters. But the spirit for freedom remains unfettered and grows ever stronger.
Ms. Gardezi continued that Jammu and Kashmir remains the foremost issue that has defined the nature of relations between Pakistan and India. Our history is replete with missed opportunities embark on the path of progress by adopting a reconciliatory approach towards each other. Resolution of Kashmir issue could have enabled both Pakistan and India to spend their finite resources more on the development of their people rather than on defense expenditure. South Asia cannot overcome the immense socio-economic challenges it confronts today in the form of poverty, ignorance, extremism and terrorism without resolving the Kashmir dispute. Pakistan is open to a meaningful engagement with India. However, there can be no solution of the Kashmir issue without the involvement and acceptance of the Kashmiri people.
Hon. Dagfinn Hoybraten, the Chairman of Norwegian Christian Party said the Norwegian government was concerned about the recent information regarding new discoveries of unidentified graves in Indian-controlled Kashmir despite India being signatory to UN`s Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. He said that he raised the issue of Kashmir in the Parliament and asked question to our foreign minister Mr. Jonas Gahr StÃ¸re whether the Norwegian authorities would contact the Indian government or human rights organizations for an independent inquiry about the mass graves of hundreds of unidentified bodies. Our foreign minister responded by saying that "We are concerned that India and Pakistan, as all other countries, do act in accordance with their obligations to the international law.`
Ali Shahnawaz Khan, Executive Director, Kashmiri Scandinavian Council said that the recent upraising in Kashmiri has completely changed the ball game. People of Kashmiri, particularly youth of Kashmir have taken the mental of Kashmir movement. The way they confronted the Indian forces and turned the entire Kashmiri movement into a peaceful resistance not only impressed the people of Jammu and Kashmiri but also intentional community. It galvanized the huge support or the cause of Kashmir. It reinvigorated the indigenous character and non-violent face of the people`s movement. It is widely acknowledged not only in India but also world over that the upsurge has nothing to do with Pakistan.
Ehtisham Kayani said that Kashmiris have a history of violence, in our documented 5000 years of history. We are peaceful human beings and we believe in human brotherhood, but when our basic right of self-determination is taken away from us, our right to live is snatched from us, what do you suggest us to do. Kayani said that today the mantle of the freedom struggle of Kashmir has been successfully passed on to lout younger generation now and we are resolute and determined to take it to its logical conclusion.
Mujtaba Mumtaz Wani said that several facts must be accepted by everyone involving the issue. First, the majority of Kashmiris are not satisfied with the current situation. Second, the majority of the people in most regions of Kashmir support independence. Third, the parties on both sides of the region have infringed upon the rights of Kashmiris. Mujtaba continued that in order to give Kashmiris what they demand, the right of self-determination, pressure must be mounted on India. He said that it is indubitable that the Indian army has committed thousands of human rights violations in Kashmir.
Mujtaba concluded that the details of a referendum on Kashmir could be discussed and debated later. The main priority of everyone should be to attract attention to the issue and to put India in a position where it has to heed to popular will. Once the pressure swells to this point, international action and the creation of a plebiscite will undoubtedly follow. However, for now, we must ask the United States support justice and its principles of government by the people, of the people, and for the people. President Obama said that Egypt`s future will be "determined by its people.` We must ask why Kashmir`s future is not to be determined by its people.
Ms. Insha Zulfikhar Khan said the wars between India and Pakistan only results in problems for the people who live in Kashmir region. It is important to analyze some of the issues that affect the people of Kashmir and why freedom is the only solution to this conflict. Over the years, more and more military troops have been sent to Kashmir. It is especially important to note hat India has sent numerous numbers of military troops to the Jammu and Kashmir regions. This military force is used to ensure that the freedom of ordinary Kashmiris is highly restricted. The people of Kashmir do not have the freedom of expression that is recognized as a basic right in the Charter of the United Nations. She said that the most applicable solution would be to withdraw the Indian troops from Kashmir and advocate for independence for Kashmir. Insha concluded by saying that it is time to unite for our survival, for our security and our own dignity forgetting all the differences.
Mr. Israr Mirza, President, PSA at GMU and Mr. Usman Chaudhary, the Vice President thanked the participants for taking time to travel long distances as far as Pennsylvania and New York to make the event a great success. Israr said that he recently visited Azad Kashmir and heard the stories of anguish and horror in the refugee camps. He alerted that the student community can play an important role in mobilizing the public opinion.
SOURCE: Kashmiri American Council